Physical activity often declines with age because of a reduction in the spontaneous activities of daily living and because of less intense exercise. In controlled studies of young rats, it was shown that physical activities associated with walking and standing were especially important for maintaining a high level of lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity in postural skeletal muscles (slowtwitch oxidative muscles). More intense contractions during run training were important for a high LPL activity in the fast-twitch glycolytic muscles. Aging also causes a fiber type–specific decrease of skeletal muscle LPL activity and LPL protein in weight-bearing skeletal muscles (and no aging effect in glycolytic muscles). Thus, contractile inactivity may be a significant factor causing sub-optimal triglyceride metabolism in skeletal muscles during both unloading in young animals and aging. Measurements of plasma LPL activity, plasma triglyceride (TG) clearance rates, postprandial hypertriglyceridemia after oral fat tolerance tests, and fasting TG levels were generally indicative of reduced plasma TG metabolism during middle or old age. In contrast, older endurance-trained individuals had a favorable blood lipid profile compared to age-matched or young controls, even when the controls were not overweight. Therefore, the poor TG metabolism that is frequently associated with aging may be caused by some of the same processes that lower skeletal muscle LPL activity of young sedentary individuals.
The authors are with the Biomedical Sciences and Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center at the University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211.